LEE Gregory made amends for his two penalty misses last weekend as his spot-kick gave Millwall all three points against Peterborough United at The Den on Tuesday night.
Gregory, who hadn’t scored in six games, didn’t hesitate to grab the ball in the 54th minute after he had been brought down in the box, and he showed admirable nerves to beat Luke McGee with a precise strike.
It was his 12th goal of the season but maybe his most important so far. Not only did it swiftly rid Saturday’s disappointment from his mind but it came at a time when Millwall badly needed some inspiration up front.
Gregory was applauded when he was substituted late on, as he had been when he reached for the ball to take the penalty.
His goal also stretched the unbeaten run to 16 games in all competitions as a much better second-half performance from the home side was just enough to clinch the win.
Added to that, it is now nine games that Millwall haven't conceded a goal, the latest clean sheet against one of the most dangerous sides in the division.
It was all so different earlier on, when Millwall’s goal had arguably never looked as threatened during that run as during the first half. That wasn’t only down to Peterborough’s movement and the number of players they have that are capable of creating something from very little. It was also down to Millwall not following up a moment that looked like it would lift them by sustaining any kind of pressure.
One period towards the end of the opening 45 minutes illustrated that. When Byron Webster broke out of defence after winning a tackle and into Peterborough’s half, he won a throw-in on the left touchline. But seconds later the ball was back with Tom King before Paul Taylor won possession, slipped Marcus Maddison in behind Tony Craig, and Maddison’s cross just missed the back post.
There had been other times when Millwall should have been shaken out of their attacking lethargy, particularly when Shaun Williams – who seemed to be on a one-man mission to crank up the pressure on Peterborough – crashed through two or three tackles in the 29th minute before Millwall won a corner. Williams was there to head Shane Ferguson’s delivery towards goal but the whistle had already gone for a free-kick.
On 40 minutes Ben Thompson went in ferociously, and perhaps just this side of legal, on Anthony Grant to win possession, but again Millwall did nothing with it.
There was little attacking cohesion. It’s stating the obvious to say that Steve Morison’s presence was badly needed, and he would arguably have made more of an early Shaun Cummings cross to the back post that Michael Bostwick headed away in a challenge with Harry Smith.
Another Tuesday night game, a third in successive weeks, but energy wasn’t a problem. Lions boss Neil Harris changed three of his midfielders from the 0-0 draw at Oldham last weekend. Williams, who has played all but two of Millwall’s league games this season, wasn’t one of them and in the ninth minute he fired an ambitious half-volley from 30 yards just over McGee’s crossbar.
At the other end King saved Tom Nichols’ shot at the near post before diving to his left to palm away Maddison’s 25th-minute free-kick.
Millwall were getting into good areas to cross the ball, particularly on the left through Ferguson and Craig, but there was little movement or presence in the box.
That changed, finally, eight minutes into the second half when Gregory wriggled through a couple of defenders and was fouled. It was the perfect opportunity to put Saturday’s double penalty miss behind him and he beat McGee low to the goalkeeper’s right.
It was a similar position to which King had to dive to keep out Maddison’s swerving free-kick as Peterborough responded positively to going behind, and the Millwall goalkeeper did well to hold onto the ball with attackers ready to take advantage of any slip.
But the goal seemed to give Millwall new attacking confidence and that was summed up when Craig, of all players, galloped onto Ferguson’s pass into the inside-left channel. He was halted in the box but didn’t give up possession and when the ball broke Aiden O’Brien, who had come on for Smith, shot low to the near post but McGee saved.
In the 76th minute only Cummings will know how many millimetres he had to spare when after Webster couldn’t clear a low cross the full-back put the ball out for a corner at the back post.
O’Brien’s introduction had given Millwall much more dynamism up front, and they were much more of an attacking force, particularly on the break with Peterborough looking to commit players forward.
There was a much-improved performance also from Fred Onyedinma after he appeared to give up after losing possession early in the second half. The crowd's angry reaction made him aware of it, and Onyedinma knew he had to make up for it. Shortly afterwards he sprinted back and though he gave away a foul he earned a pat on the back from Williams.
Onyedinma then won two late corners to keep the pressure off his side, and that was enough as Millwall climbed back into the top six in League One.
Image: Millwall FC